Pride In London is one of the biggest and most extravagant expressions of LGBTQIA+ life, journey and art in the world, and I was grateful enough to have the privilege of walking with one of the leading organisations for LGBT+ equality in the country – Stonewall. After being formed in 1989 Stonewall have the expertise, knowledge, compassion and heart to be able to work as hard as they can to ensure that equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people is achieved, no matter how long it takes. I began volunteering with Stonewall in May. After venturing into the working world on a Fashion PR internship, I realised that this world wasn’t for me, and I needed something that was going to not only be appropriate for me as a human being who wants job satisfaction, but also is going to feed me with a feeling of knowing I’m doing something for the greater good. I needed something that meant something to me, but also used a skill set that I had been crafting at University, and helping the social media and communications team at Stonewall looked perfect. Fashion PR and the environment that I was in was not right for me in many ways. The fashion industry can be a cruel mistress, and the way that I felt I was being treated as an intern was not far off the stereotypical and hyper realised ‘devil wears Prada’ notion of what it is like to be an intern in the fashion industry. I knew my self worth, and I knew that the place that I was in was not right for me, and the fact that I had to be there as part of my university course as part of my 3 month placement was a lot of stress that this lil’ lemon was not accustomed to. I felt trapped by the restraints of my course and the fact that I knew if I left the internship I could fail was not a pressure that this lemon needed. I was being squeezed and lets just say a fair amount of lemon juice was coming out. (What an image). After speaking with uni, I was allowed to actually leave my placement and then continue another one, with a gap in the middle, so I would be able to leave the PR internship, and then look for another internship and then continue the next one to create the 3 months of placement! HURRAH! It was actually so extra because I remember everyday at my PR internship in Shoreditch (that was the only saving grace of the placement, actually getting to work in Shoreditch everyday), I would ring Stonewall every single day to see if the volunteer position that I’d applied for had been filled yet, sometimes literally 3 times a day I would ring and basically BEG down the phone to be allowed to join the team. I was finally asked to interview and got the position on the spot, and left WEEPING with joy and exuberance as I knew instantly that this was going to be such a GIFT of a place to volunteer at.
Stonewall is honestly one of the most welcoming, encompassing and just WARM places I’ve ever been to let alone volunteered at. It’s a place that doesn’t just look past your identity and your being, but also SEE’s it in all it’s glory. It doesn’t ignore your challenges that you could be having with your sexuality or identity, it celebrates it and ensures that it’s nurtured, cherished and allowed to flourish at your own pace. For one of the first times in my life I didn’t feel like I had to NOT say or do something because it could be seen as being ‘too much’ for the workplace. I think also because I’d just come from an environment that didn’t care for me, not only for my skill set, but for my identity, it was a welcome embrace that I needed. The comms team are now becoming a second family to me, and it’s a bond that I’ve never had before with other fellow queer people, and it’s such a strong and emotive relationship that even though I’ve only been there since May/June, I already feel like I’m part of them. The work is also something that I can definitely see becoming a career. Using social media, understanding the people who will interact with the social media and how it can help people combines my two interests perfectly. Creating content, researching LGBT+ influencers and actually going to meet global organisations that are using their platform to elevate ours shows us how far we have come as a society, and how far Stonewall are pushing us in that direction every single day. The flat hierarchy that they employ also creates such a community environment, that most of the time it doesn’t even feel like you’re working because it’s so relaxed and platonic. They also have a whole yellow sofa corner accompanied with cushioned yellow walls so – it’s really a win win.
What this post is basically about is to highlight how important it is to volunteer and help out organisations and communities that you care about, no matter how much time you have, no matter how difficult you think it could be logistically, try your best to help out the people that are helping you. Stonewall have helped me and all LGBT+ people whether or not you even know about it, by helping repeal section 28, campaigning for marriage equality, and more recently by implementing programmes and schemes that help promote LGBT+ acceptance in sport, education and in the workplace. Go back to these organisations that have helped you in the world, and try and help them out! It’s a perfect circle of compassion, help, love and gratitude because you’re not only enriching your own lives by helping at an org/charity, but you’re benefiting the lives of the people that that org/charity works with. Stonewall have the benefit of being non-partisan and working with government to change and influence policy that really changes lives, so do not think that the work and volunteering capabilities that you have will go to waste. VOLUNTEER and find your local orgs/charities that you can help with, and apply! You’ve got nothing to lose! It’s also a great way to experience so many amazing events. If I’d not volunteered with Stonewall, I wouldn’t have gone to Pride In London and walked in one of the most mesmerising events of my life.
Let me know how you all get on ladies, no matter how big or small, I want to hear who you’ve been helping and how it’s making your lives better! Your work can help change and save lives.
All the love,